Jeff Halpern arrived in New York City last Thursday to move into his new apartment just as most Manhattanites were exiting the big city for the Labor Day holiday weekend. Not that he minded. It gave the veteran center a chance to unpack and prepare to meet his new Ranger teammates after the holiday was over.
And on Tuesday morning Halpern (shown battling the Rangers in last spring's post-season) was at the MSG Training Center to not only meet several of his new teammates, including Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, and Brad Richards, but to take part in an informal on-ice workout with them, as well.
"Whenever you go to a new city and a new team you want to leave your mark on the team and make a good impression," said Halpern after the workout, which included a string of sprints to wind things up. "You have to interact with the guys right away, but at the same time you do not want to go outside your personality and force yourself on anyone. But there are some top-notch people here, so it should be pretty easy."
Halpern, who has played seven of his previous 12 NHL seasons with the Washington Capitals, knows a thing or two about fitting in with a new team. Not only has Halpern played for five teams during his career (not including the Rangers), but twice he has had to join teams during the middle of a season---the Lightning in 2007-08 and the Kings in 2009-10. In addition, as captain of the Capitals Halpern found himself in the position of making newcomers feel welcome, so he's been on both sides.
"Usually people are pretty protective of their locker rooms, and this group has been together a long time so you don't want to come in here and upset anything," noted Halpern, who signed as afree agent with the Rangers this past July. "But pretty quickly you become family, and you will lean on one another for support throughout a year of ups and downs. So the quicker you feel comfortable the better."
Halpern is one of four veteran newcomers to the Rangers this season. The team also signed free agent forwards Aaron Asham and Taylor Pyatt, and traded for All Star forward Rick Nash.
Halpern sees the Nash addition, in particular, as one that can bring the Rangers to that oft-talked-about "next level".
"I thought New York had a great team last year and was a legit Stanley Cup-contending team," explained Halpern, who has 861 games of NHL experience under his belt. "But I think Rick just gives you that extra element or X Factor that a lot of teams need to get to that next level. Just to put an impact player like Rick into this lineup, which was a great team to begin with, it changes a lot of things for the better."
Over his career, Halpern has crossed paths with Brad Richards on many an occasion, and now the two will be teammates for the first time. Not only have they battled often on the ice---Halpern the checking center matched many a time against Richards the scoring center---but the two were traded for one another , too, when Dallas sent Halpern and three others to Tampa Bay for Richards and Johan Holmqvist on February 28, 2008.
"The one guy I feel like I've spent the most of my career playing against is Brad Richards, going back to our (playoff) series between Washington and Tampa and just being in the same division so much with the role that I had and going against him quite a bit," said Halpern. "You learn to hate guys like that, but as soon as you walk into a hockey locker room the past is in the past and it's pretty easy to get on board."
Share your thoughts below on Jeff Halpern's arrival in New York, his past battles with Brad Richards, and his thoughts on Rick Nash.